Middle and high school educational trends burden students rather than help them

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In the face of new questionable policies being implemented by our middle schools, simplifying curriculums and making the transition to high school even more difficult, we can’t help but ask the question: why do schools decide to implement these new teaching styles and standards? What is their goal in these changes, and what makes them believe these changes are better than the status quo?

The drop in proficiency rates for the first time since the early 90s highlights ineffective educational standards and teaching styles as the culprit for these changes. According to Pew Research, the United States place 38th out of 71 countries in math, placing us much further behind other countries that are just as financially stable as the US. If wealth is often tied to educational performance within a country, why is the US the exception?

Educational trends are essentially new methods or developments that schools and teachers adopt, typically as a way to respond to new rising issues in the existing educational model. The implementation of some educational, like group projects, emphasizing application and critical thinking, have proved successful and effective. However, not all educational trends are created equal.

Recent educational trends appear to be more of “get rich quick” schemes, developing as a way to improve the prestige of a school, rather than actually enhancing a student’s level of understanding topics. These trends don’t seem to have a student’s best interests in mind, and in some cases, they actually end up hindering a student’s growth through restricting their opportunities. These are the kinds of trends that force teachers to teach to learning targets, preventing students from being able to apply their education in real life.

After the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, states were mandated to administer uniform tests to students annually. As these tests evolved to determine a school’s prestige and amount of funding they would receive, schools began to focus on teaching students only the content on the test to ensure high scores and better funding. 

 A heavy burden is placed on both the teacher and the student, when teachers are restricted to teaching test material and not much additional instruction; whereas students are left with a deep knowledge of what their standardized tests are on, but not the application of skills necessary for college or an occupation.

Clearly, current educational trends implemented in middle and high schools aren’t fit to prepare students for the next step. Colleges don’t teach to standardized tests, nor do colleges allow test retakes or multiple chances to complete assignments. 

Instead of teaching for tests, educational trends should be moving toward teaching in a more equitable way, rather than equal. Instead of  teaching in a way that discourages and suppresses a student’s ability to excel in a certain field, teachers should be left to teach what they believe is best for their students and teach acknowledging the individual. This would improve a student’s performance in their passion and desired career, give teachers more freedom to teach what they believe is best for their students, and perhaps would move the US back up to a higher ranking in international student proficiency.